Schedule Your Sanity – Checking Email in Outlook 2013 the Smart Way

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You get an email you need to reply to. Five minutes into it, you get an alert and get sucked into another email, with a different problem. Five minutes after that, you’re looking at the original email, scratching your head and totally lost. When you do finally get your bearings, another email arrives. You tell yourself you’re not going to look. But, but …

It’s okay. We’ve all be there. The constant flow of email makes sustained focus almost impossible. But you can make things easier on yourself.

Keep Your Send/Receive Pre-Set at 30 Minutes

Outlook 2013 comes with a pre-set send/receive setting set to 30 minutes. This means Outlook 2013 will search for new messages every 30 minutes unless you ask it to do it sooner.

Many people set this all the way down to 1 minute so they get emails as soon as they’re sent. Which kills productivity.

Scheduling your send/receive should be based around how you work, not an arbitrary number. If you tend to spend about 20 minutes on a single work item, then schedule your send/receive for 20-25 minutes. This way, Outlook 2013 will automatically check for new messages when you are finishing up a work item.

If, however, you tend to spend 1-3 hours on an item, schedule the send/receive frequency for an hour or more.

Create Send/Receive Groups

If you have multiple email accounts inside Outlook 2013, you can create send/receive groups to get emails on varying schedules. For example, if you want to get personal email only a few times a day, create a group for personal emails that gets new messages every 3-6 hours, while leaving your work email set for an hour or so.

This can stop personal emails from interrupting you during the work day. This idea of scheduling your emails is easy to do, and with Outlook 2013 it can be totally automated. Let’s check it out.

Scheduling Send/Receive

    • Open Outlook 2013 and click the “Send/Receive” tab on the Office ribbon. Click the “Send/Receive Groups” item to show the drop-down menu.

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    • Click the “Define Send/Receive Groups” item. This will bring up a new window.

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    • If you are sticking with one group, you can now select the minutes between Send/Receive sessions by moving the arrows up or down, or by typing a number into the box.
    • If you would rather have multiple groups for varying send/receive schedules, click the New… button to make a new group.

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    • In the new window, enter a name for the group. Make it descriptive so you remember it later. When you click OK, you’ll get a new settings window, where you can set up the schedule for this new group and list what accounts go into it.

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    • Choose all the items you want to be included then click OK. (Note, select the email account you want included in the left part of the window.)
    • Select the new group and set the schedule you want it to be on. Click Close when you’re done. (In the example below, the new group is set at 90 minutes.)

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    • Now, when you want to force a send/receive for a specific group, all you need to do is click the “Send/Receive Groups” button and select the group you want to run. This can be done in case you are ready for new emails early. If you click the “Send/Receive All Folders” button in the top left corner, all accounts will fetch new messages, no matter the group or schedule.

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Result: More Focus, More Productivity, More Satisfaction

Stick with it for at least a week. You’ll notice better concentration, more productivity, and a better attitude.

It’s easy to get distracted by new emails and to stress out when you see a stream of messages coming in while you work on a single item. By scheduling your email checking with Outlook 2013, you can keep your sanity and work on what you need to get done.

One last thing to mention here is that for this to truly work, you need to ignore your phone’s attempts to tell you about new emails. Shut it off or turn email off while you’re sitting at your desk.

The Power of a Schedule

Schedules are like budgets are for money, but instead they focus on time. Don’t underestimate the power of a schedule, even if it is for something as simple as your email.

Treat your time with respect and you’ll get better results. This is why Outlook 2013 has such granular scheduling settings. You can make it fit your schedule and Outlook 2013 will do the hard part of remembering to check your email for you.

How to Break the News to Your Co-workers

I’ll leave you with one last tip. If you are drastically changing your email schedule to something like twice a day, let your co-workers know.

You can use the template below. If it sounds like a call to arms, that’s because it is.

Hello there.

In order to help myself stay more productive, I’m changing how I check email throughout the day.

From now on, I’m only going to check my email for new messages at 8:30 a.m. and at 3 p.m..

I am doing this so I can keep my sanity and so the items we work on together can be done better and faster. I’m still available by phone for important, time-sensitive matters. It’s nice to hear a real voice every now and then, anyway.

Please let me know (in person!) if you have concerns and we’ll work something out.

Yours in productivity …

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